Review of Rita & Ralph's Rotten Day

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day
by Carmen Agra Deedy; illus. by Pete Oswald
Preschool, Primary    Scholastic    48 pp.
3/20    978-1-338-21638-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-59927-5    $10.99

Rita and Ralph are best friends. Each day they meet at the apple tree midway between their houses and play games together. One day the two children try a new game (“Sticks and Stones”) in which more than feelings (accidentally) get hurt. After the two return to their respective homes in a huff, Ralph decides to apologize and ventures back out to Rita’s house. Going all that way, though, renders him a “smidge grumpy,” and his apology comes out as less than heartfelt. Rita likewise makes the long trip, but all that time to think makes her madder than before. Both Rita and Ralph spend the rest of the day — and a sleepless night — sad and mad. Thankfully, a new day brings a new chance for true apologies. The book’s broad landscape orientation shows the lengths (“down the hill, and up the hill, and down the hill, and up the hill, and down the hill, and up the hill, and down the hill, aaaaand up the hill”) the two friends must go to get to each other’s houses, until they can once again meet in the middle — in more ways than one. Playfully curved text follows the children’s paths, and each sweeping view of the exhausting trek gives a glimpse into the passage of time and the shifting details of their surroundings. Oswald’s digital illustrations fill the pages with swaths of color, energetic lines, and many emotive eyebrows, all of which work to capture the ups and downs of one rotten day. Adapted from the interactive story “Mr. Wiggle and Mr. Waggle,” Deedy’s narrative is made to be read aloud. A simple, silly, and satisfying picture book that shows just how far we’ll go for our friends.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Grace McKinney
Grace McKinney Beermann

Grace McKinney Beermann holds an MA in Children's Literature from Simmons University and reviews for the Horn Book Magazine. She works at a Montessori school in St. Louis, Missouri, and writes about children's books and Montessori on the blog Cosmic Bookshelf.

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